Return to site

Bullies at Work

By Kelly Prentice, Wellness Coach

· workplace wellness,bullying

What is going on in the American workplace? Is your company starting to look like a scene from The Apprentice? It's no joke when we say, the leadership of the U.S. has oozed into the hallways and boardrooms of Corporate America.

If you've been in a meeting and feel you are being attacked or intimidated, you are not the only one. If you've heard the words, "You're fired!" and you're wondering who is next, we are here to help you cope with the stress. We do not have to be 6-year-olds on the playground these days to encounter a bully.

The first thing you need to know if the VP turns on you is, it is it is NOT your fault. Workplace bullying is an abuse or misuse of power. It has a detrimental effect on every person in the company. It also impacts upon the company's success. Bullying behavior is easy to recognize, too - it intimidates, degrades, and offends a person, often in front of others. A person who is the target of a bullying manager, supervisor, or coworker often feels defenseless and demoralized. Not only that, workers who try to stay and cope with bullying conditions at work may pay the price with health ailments; the effects of stress include digestive problems, musculoskeletal issues, and sleep disturbances.

It's unacceptable that bullying is rampant in the workplace. And here's part of the reason: Federal and state laws offer no protection. There are small protections in the case of racial discrimination or sexual misconduct. But what about the bully who attacks someone violently for reasons that aren't so obvious? With this lack of boundaries, managers, supervisors and coworkers (intentionally or not) more often cross the line. It's time we recognize this kind of bullying behavior in the workplace, call it out, and let the bullies know it is unacceptable.

Examples of bullying (from the American Federation of Teachers) may include:

  • Unwarranted or invalid criticism
  • Repeated attacks on a person's professional conduct
  • Constant assignment of trivial tasks
  • Assignments with unrealistic or impossible deadlines
  • Setting up a person to fail by overloading him/her with work
  • Blame or discipline without factual justification
  • Treatment that is different from other colleagues or coworkers
  • Swearing at a worker
  • Exculsion or social isolation
  • Shouting at or humiliating a worker
  • Making a worker the target of practical jokes
  • Excessive monitoring

Bullies rarely mistreat staff in isolation; they create a culture of bullying. A culture or environment of fear and intimidation. What should you do if you encounter a bully in the workplace? Our research has shown that, though the law will not protect you, there are some actions you can take to protect yourself:

  1. If possible, do not stay and listen to a bully's abusive words or tolerate their behavior.  Walk away. Stand up for yourself. This is easier said than done, but the more times a bully gets away with the behavior, the more bold they become.
  2.  Make a written record of the abuse and intimidation. Write down the date, time, coworkers present, and the exact actions of the bully and words that were exchanged. Try to stick to simple facts and leave out your emotions for the record.
  3.  Once you have made a written record, tell someone. Know that you are not alone.  If the person is bullying you, oftentimes others are suffering at the hands of the bully, too.  Instead of going directly to Human Resources, you may want to speak with the bully's direct supervisor.
  4. Take steps to either find a new job or move to another position within the company to get away from the abusive behavior, for your own health.
  5.  Take care of yourself. The situation is not your fault, it is the bully's problem. You will need to find a way to practice self care, by talking through the situation with a trusted counselor, finding solace in a spiritual community, or finding ways to release stress such in a yoga or meditation practice.

We at Bija Initiative are seeking ways to take a stand against this trend. It is unethical and unacceptable. Here's some resources we found that might be helpful, but please share any that you have found useful!

Workplace Bullying Institute

7 Ways to Spot a Bully at Work

Reasons Why Workplace Bullies Target People

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!